AN ODE TO THE BLACK CAPS- THE EMBODIMENT OF THE GENTLEMAN’S GAME
New Zealand cricket has been on an upward trajectory for a few years now and we have witnessed something special being built at the very core of the team during this period. The team seems to have a pool of 20-22 players who are well-equipped to handle both Test and limited overs cricket. They have undoubtedly been the most consistent team at the World Cup over the past two editions of the mega event, with the likes of captain Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell Santner making the Kiwis a deadly outfit to face for just about anyone across the planet.
The Leader of The Pack
In Kane Williamson, the Black Caps are blessed with one of the finest batsmen across all formats. His elegance, poise and sheer run scoring ability have garnered him much love and respect all over the world and he has consistently been one of the foremost proponents of the art of batting in the world for almost a decade now. The very fact that he is a member of the ‘Big Four’ club of batsmen is a testament to his class.
Fans often talk about how they would sit an entire day at the stadium just to have an opportunity to watch one shot from a batsman they admire. It was the straight drive with Tendulkar, the Pull Shot by Ponting, the Helicopter by Dhoni and it’s the Square Cut with Williamson. He plays that shot with such consummate ease that it often lulls the spectator into misconceiving the level of difficulty that shot entails.
Kane Williamson has not just been one of the very best batsmen but he is arguably the best leader of men on a cricket field in the world right now. He has shown it with his national team, having led them in all formats with considerable aplomb since the retirement of Brendon McCullum. Not only have the Kiwis achieved their highest-ever Test ranking under his stewardship, they have also been absolute model professionals while displaying a massive regard for sportsmanship throughout this time.
The way the understated skipper led his team during all the post-match drama and confusion after their loss in the heart-wrenching final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup is nothing short of a case in managing emotions, being respectful of the occasion and all the while showing an exemplary sense of calm at the time. Such was the impact of their brilliant captain that one game elevated New Zealand to the being the most likable side in world cricket, eliciting collective sighs at how close they had been to achieving their dreams.
The Experienced General
Ross Taylor through the first half of his career, often had his critics who bemoaned the Kiwi’s inability to fully bank upon the extraordinary talent he had exhibited as a junior and in fleeting moments on the international stage. His is a story of grit and reinvention. If one was to glance at that ODI average of 47.8 today, they would probably not be able to comprehend just how good Taylor has been over the past 3 seasons and how he has taken his game to another level altogether. He sits second only to Virat Kohli since 2015 in terms of ODI runs with an astonishing average of almost 70 during this period and has been the bed rock of the many successes that the Kiwis have had during this time.
The Ross Taylor of 2014 might have been a man who was considering retirement but the man today is a true run-machine who has left bowlers holding their heads in their hands and captains scratching their heads. He’s the leader who has become the revered general.
Trent Boult is one of the finest fast bowlers in the world and has continually tormented batsmen on all sorts of surfaces. Be it with the Dukes in England, the Kookaburra in Australia or the SG in India, he has taken wickets in all conditions. On first glance you wouldn’t associate him with fast bowling as he appears to be any smiling and cheeky lad, but with a ball in his hand, Boult means business as he turns into one of the most lethal bowlers in the world. He has been brilliant since his debut in 2011, having picked up over 400 international wickets over the past 8 years.
This one stat says a lot about a man who himself perhaps best exemplifies the term ‘Smiling Assassin’. His duels with Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root have been enthralling and he remains the head of the New Zealand bowling attack which has been mighty impressive.
The success of the New Zealand team has been a fantastic story in perseverance and desire. The Kiwi Board too deserves a lot of credit for having appointed the best possible people managing the team and for being extremely forward thinking with the re-organization of their domestic structure. The appointment of Mike Hesson, giving him free reign with selection duties and nurturing young talent were cracking decisions which have paid manifold dividends for the Kiwis. They have some very exciting youngsters who have come through and done remarkably well to ensure that cricket in the country is in the pink of its health.
What makes this current crop of New Zealanders is the fact that while they leave it all out on the pitch, there is a personal side to all of these seasoned pros that reveals itself to the fans and adds a certain narrative to each of their stories which makes for the Black Caps to be the embodiment of what is rightly referred to as the gentleman’s game.